Memories of Dad

Every once in awhile when I’m watching a television show, and my mind thinks ahead and figures out how it’s going to end, it makes me remember my dad.

Picture 011My memories of him have pride attached. Like a good son, I looked up to him, and respected how smart he was, and how he could solve any problem with a home made solution. In retrospect, neither of my parents were really as smart or great as I always thought they were, but families have their own special kind of love blind. To me, they were both great, good looking parents.

All my life I’ve had a different way of looking at things, and thinking about things. My dad was a doer, and I was a dreamer.  He was more an engineer, and followed his ideas through to completion. I was more the dreamer that just liked coming up with the ideas. My mind has always been a bit obsessive, although I never had a diagnosis. I have always over thought things, and it effects the speed of my decision making process.

I’ve called myself a master of scenarios, while others have called me a devils advocate. When presented with a situation, I tend to create as many what if scenarios as I can. I always come up with possible situations that others didn’t think of. Sometimes that’s a blessing and sometimes it’s a curse.

This ability wasn’t always good at guessing the actual outcome that transpired, but it did generate a lot of ideas that frequently created fear and self doubt. Thinking up many possible outcomes for any given situation ended up being the main reason my life was filled with a lot of “No”.  If invited out, there would be enough scenarios with negative outcomes to tip the risk scale to my safe setting, and I would just say No. I would not attend. There was always a distinct possibility I wouldn’t enjoy myself at your party, or that movie, or that restaurant, or the spice.

On the positive side however, it was like a superpower when watching TV. My active mind always watches shows on two or three levels while I watch the storyline, I also evaluate the setting from the actors viewpoint, or the production side. I notice and remember plot points and inconsistencies. I am constantly thinking up scenarios about how the story will continue.

It gives me pleasure to watch a murder mystery, and solve the crime before the mid episode commercial break. I may revise and update my conclusions as the story unfolds, and I may imagine several possible conclusions. Because of this, I get to enjoy the equivalent of multiple new stories at once. The real show as it plays out, and the imagination versions I’ve created in my mind. Often my endings are totally different, but equally as satisfying as the real episode.

Sometimes I prefer my stories. My endings were better than the ones the show followed.

This is all fun and mind games until you watch with somebody else, and freely express your thought as the show plays live. It should come as no surprise that other spectators don’t share the same excitement when I guess who did it, how and why all before the the first 10 minutes have passed.  I can be the worst kind of spoiler dude, ruining shows live, with solutions that may or may not be right.

I’m worse that the person who you overheard in a line at the theatre talk about Darth Vader being Luke’s father, or that “the Judge is a Toon!!” even before you’ve entered the theatre. I’m even more irritating kid behind you in the theater that always whispers loudly to his friend before each plot point, unless he also keeps kicking your seat back, then he is the worst.

My father has a reputation within my memories of being loud. I don’t have too many visuals of anything other than him losing his temper. It is his defining character trait that trumps his genius in my memory vault. We always had to be careful not to upset him. 

However, in this one particular memory, I made him smile. Every time. Whenever I was able to guess the bad guy, way before he could comprehend it, he was always happy. Proud. 

I’d say; “It’s him. He did it” and he’d smile, and say; “How do you do that?”, emphasizing the second “do” in a tone I read aloud in my head as I write.

I have no memory of him ever getting upset at me spoiling the ending, even if I wasn’t right, which I usually was. I usually am. To be fair, TV shows are pretty easy to guess most of the time. It’s not rocket science, but to my father, it was a skill he didn’t process. His mind didn’t work that way.

 

A few weeks ago I was watching an episode of the BBC series Sherlock off my Plex. A friend had recommended it, and was eager o re-watch it with me. I was given permission to talk aloud as we watched. Very early on, I paused and declared; I’d like to solve the puzzle Pat.

She didn’t know what I meant at first, so the joke fell flat, but I followed up with an explanation of how rest of the hour long show would play out. I got all the major plot and character elements right. She seemed a bit shaken by the experience. I could witness her face mould through a few variations before settling on a response. I’m sure she may have even thought about accusing me of having seen it before. I get that a lot.

Instead, she asked; “How did you do that?”

I smiled. It reminded me of my dad.

I told her this story.

The Highlander – 2014 Doctor Edition

Forever_(U.S._TV_series)_Title_Card[1]

A few summers ago,  during the slow summer season when hardly anything new is on TV, I started binge watching The Highlander series every day on one of those obscure higher package cable channels. I have always been a fan of time travel stories, and although immortals are not technically the same as time travellers, the similarity in story was enough for me.  I had seen the movie later in life, but I really liked the series. I often find myself day dreaming about what it would be like for me, if I could live a few hundred years. As I got older, I even started telling people I’ll be darn pissed off if I die an old man, and THEN find out I was immortal.

Over the years I have considered a few immortal scenarios I could write about, if I ever started writing fiction. The concept leads well to fiction, and I’m still surprised we don’t see more movies and TV shows about immortals.

Tonight that all changed, and a new modern day immortal debuted in the fall TV lineup. Another cop procedural with a twist, which seems to be such a common storyline these days.  Character X helps a regular cop or federal agent solve crimes. I’ve blogged previously about how many cops in the USDA seem to need the help of strangers to do their job. I suspect the real cops get a little disturbed by this. There are almost no shows were good cops do their own crime solving these days. Yesterdays blog was about another premier using the same plot, except with government cop and consultants were 5 geniuses instead of an immortal.

In FOREVER, the lead character is unexplainably immortal. Much like the immortals of The Highlander series. They actually die, but then come back to life. In The Highlander, they used the same body, which was logical. In this new series, they’ve added the twist that they are reborn somewhere lese, always naked in water. We’ll no doubt see this twits used for humour and suspense as the show continues. In episode two, we discover their original body just seems to disappear, which is a plot point that will surely get him in trouble. It also passes into the realm of magic and unbelievability for me.  I am actually OK with the concept of immortality, but a disappearing body pushes the limits of reality a bit farther than I’m comfortable with.

duncanLike Duncan Mac Leod, of the clan Mac Leod, he has lived for a few hundred years, and has learned many languages, although he still speaks with a British accent. He has mastered skills as he lived from life to life around the globe, moving on and starting over every few decades. Undoubtedly we will see his past memories of war and love become part of the story each week as the writers introduce us to more of him.

His other attribute seems to be a sharp mind, modelled after the kind of obsessive attention to detail we’ve been seeing a lot in shows from Sherlock Holmes to Monk, Psych, The Mentalist and others. He’s smarter than the average cop. I’m actually a little surprised they didn’t give him a photographic memory too.

I am excited to see episodes three and on. I’m curious to see whether he’ll reveal to his Lois Lane cop partner early on, or  her whether the mystery of how he isn’t afraid of death, and doesn’t seem to get injured will last a few weeks. It might even stay a secret all of season 1.  If the show gets picked up for a second season, it will no doubt start down another path of TV co-ed partnerships, and we’ll get to see them fall in love… which is extra tricky for an immortal. We’ve already seen how much he daydreams of his first love lost from the 1940’s

I can’t yet decide which decision will make for better story lines, but as long as they keep trying to solve dangerous murders, he will continue to be killed each week at least once, so it might start to get silly if he doesn’t explain himself sooner rather than later. Everybody used to complain when Superman didn’t do something super at least once per episode. It is the same for an immortal. There is no point unless they keep killing him. Currently the only Daren Stevens character that knows his secret is his adopted son, who is now the age his father would be. A nice twist.

FOREVER really is two shows in one A cop procedural with a super-hero twist. Well see whether the plot goes more towards a show solving murders,  or an immortal hiding a secret. I’m hoping for a nice balance that keeps the series going with interesting plots. I’ve seen from 5 years of The Highlander, there are a lot of places the story can go.

When my mind gets creative, it thinks up futire directions for season 2 and beyond. I think it’d be cool if every season they pulled a reverse Doctor Who and changed every character but the lead. One death is public and instead of being exposed, he must pack up and move on, much like The Highlander did when he moved to France for a year.  It would be something we don’t see often on network TV.

I like it.  I’m a first episode fan.  It stays in the rotation.

Unpause.

Pauseandblog: Scorpion

I’m watching the premier episode of Scorpion as I write this.

http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2419510784/tt3514324?ref_=tt_ov_I

scorpion

It’s a federal agent crime drama where the lead characters are a group of super smart, uniquely talented under 30 year old nerds, recruited by an old, wrinkle face, loud fed. I’ve just hit pause part way though, so I don’t know all the details yet.

What caused me to pause and blog, was witnessing some Computer mumble jumble fake tech talk. I ponder how long this kind of creative fake technology in TV will be acceptable. Back in the 80s, most people still didn’t have a home computer so when we saw Mathew Broderick talking to one, we believed it. Today, we’re pretty smart about what’s possible, and when a hacker goes into a restaurant and connects his computer via WiFi directly to the internal camera feeds at the airport, some people may still believe it’s possible… but when he hits ctrl-c on a flashing Blue screen of death Windows XP box and then goes back into the computer to solve the problem, that’s too far. Too hard to believe.

Kidding aside, I can’t help but wonder who they feel a demographic of reasonably unattractive nerds is appealing to. I understand that they can’t make nerds beautiful, or nobody would believe they were nerds, even in today’s nerd friendly society. However, true nerds may be bothered by a show like this, on many levels. Nerds don’t always like it when shows depicting nerds are able to do things that reality doesn’t really allow. 

I’ve already seen 10 things that are not realistic in this show, and I’m only 15 minutes in.

Unpause – Pause

As I watch more, I see that all the other characters have equal demographic followers that will be irritated by the inaccuracies of their life, from crazy lock picking, amazing math, hackable electric power, and crazy psychology tricks. As I think more about it, I realize that all TV probably has an unbelievable quality that applies to any role. I suspect the real FBI agents can pick apart how crazy the agent’s actions are. I guess we all give in to TV being unrealistic. We suspend our disbelief for the sake of the story, or the action sequences. We even accept the part where a complete stranger waitress volunteers to save the day, by being asked to drive over 100km down the busy streets of LA, aided by one of the smart nerds, who has hacked all the traffic lights (but one) to turn green for the journey.

As the episode continues, I can partially respect it as an action adventure show. It’s not unlike any other federal agent against the bad guys show, with a novel twist.  Parts were as silly as a Bond flick at times, and some of the silliness was laughably bad, like when they started driving a Ferrari at 200mph down an airport runway while a jumbo jet flies 20 feet above them for a few seconds so they can connect the two via a hanging network cable. Once they plug in, they are able to instantly download a fresh copy of the plane’s operating software and save the city.

The question is, will this silliness impact whether people like the show, or leave it. Can we accept absolute stupid moments in order to enjoy an action sequence? Can nerds handle stupidity that borders on mocking their talents and skills?  Time will tell.

I’ll watch week two before I decide. For now, it stays in the rotation.

Magnetic Chereos

I’ve been watching more YouTube videos than regular television this summer.

Tonight I was watching a two part episode of the educational video series; Vertasium.

In week one, he showed a number of science physics things. The one I’m writing about first, was the sequence where a a magnet is used to pull a piece of cereal around in a bowl of water.

The following week, a second video was released that showed the reasons. The science explanation for this “magic” was the simple fact that cereal apparently a huge percentage of your daily recommended supply of iron. Real iron. Our body needs it.

What made the video interesting to me, was that they explained the iron explanation, and then followed up with more information. They claimed to have received some viewer comments, indicating that other items like paper reacted the same. It seems almost anything that floats, is also pulled around in the water towards a magnetic source.   The magnet wasn’t effecting the iron in the cereal at all, but rather the liquid itself.

I was as much interested in the science, as I was in the experiment itself, and the logic of the science behind their first answer. It was an example of trial and error that failed. The video did indeed show me that the iron in cereal was magnetic, but the water experiment was showing me inaccurate results. It seems as though they neglected to show the experiment first with a control, to provide prof that items that don’t contain iron do not move towards the magnet.

As I watched the segment, I became curious as to whether they even knew about this second answer before the second reveal episode. It is an excellent example of scientific principle being misleading when used without a control. They proved a hypothesis with three actual sets of proof. The cereal is definitely magnetic, however they did not prove to us that the proof they used was legit.

On YouTube, we can’t always believe what we see, and entire videos are often made to look real, but instead just turn out to be bogus pranks, or fake science. We have to be careful. When I watch Mythbusters do experiments, they always provide a proof of concept and a control experiment to prove the proof.

I wonder if the show knew both answers and were going to reveal them both, or whether they were surprised by the second discovery, and amended their reveal video to show both truths. In the old days of Television, this curiosity woukd remain a mystery. Today, I think to myself – Google knows all, and somebody else has probably already asked in the comments, forums, or via  twitter.  People love to follow up interactivky these days. It’s probably the biggest change in media. We no longer just watch and learn… we get to watch, learn and ask questions.

As it turns out, the editors of the video admitted to learning something new. The discussions went on for pages. It seems they were excited by learning something new, just as we were. Science is cool.


Later in the video,  they described to me why hot air rises is a totally new way,  allowing me to better understand it,  than ever before. It’s great to learn new things at any age, even if they’re things that may seem obvious and things I should have learned when I was 10.  The floating teabag effect let me understand the idea of whooshing thicker air than the vaccine of thin heated air.  Whoosh.

Pauseandblog: Perception

SC_004I’ve been watching a TV show called perception, which in many ways is just another in the long line of buddy cop shows that have come along in the past three years. You’ve no doubt seen at least one odd pairing of police, FBI or CSI and their helpful, off the books consultant.  Although Monk and Castle and The Mentalist may be among the most famous, both cable and network TV have been pairing odd experts with law officials to solve crimes for years.

Having both expert and novice work together in TV land gives them a reason to have to explain the stuff we might not understand otherwise.

On Bravo’s Perception, the expert helping the FBI is an Ivy League professor of psychology, but also a schizophrenic, and the delusions and voices he hears, usually help him solve the case. It’s an odd three way dynamic with an imaginary muse.

In this series, there is almost always an opening scene or two where the good doctor is in class teaching a lesson, coincidentally similar to the case he’s consulting on, or about to be.

The premise reminds me of how the sitcom Seinfeld originally opened and ended with Jerry doing his stand up routine at the top of the show and an extra punchline at the end, which were supposed to indicate to us, the answer to that age-old question every comic writer gets; “where do you get your material?”

I enjoy these sequences on Perception because it’s a field I’m fascinated with; the brain. His mini classroom lessons are actually educational. In today’s lecture, he begins by asking a student; “What have you done with your hair?”. He continues; ” It doesn’t matter how your day is going, often all it takes is one off hand comment to ruin it.”

This is so true, and one of the qualities I’m working on in my life.  Joy can be crushed so easily by another, with simple words, often not even intentionally. A question can begin a doubt loop that breaks your confidence and exposes it as a lie. I have this problem, and I also have been known to ask the kinds of questions that cause this grief in others.

Of course, it is almost always just in our head, and reframing can dissolve the negative thoughts. It just takes practice.

The next phrase he utters is what made me pause the TV and blog. “That’s because our brains are hard wired to remember the negative interactions better than the positive…”

Can this be true? I had to un-pause, and re-play the scene just a bit more to learn. The rest of the clip got more technical as he talks about unhappiness being a choice. This hits home with me, and my own personal writings and theories have been saying this.  I didn’t realize it was chemically and instinctively an uphill battle. I just though it was me.

In some ways, having physiology to blame means it’s not my fault.

Thank you Perception. Your scene may have changed my life.

Jeff Goebel
Mental Icarus

 

Pauseandblog: The Dead Body Reveal

TV inspires me to pause and blog often. I used to enjoy watching TV with someone, so we could pause and chat, but now that I live alone this is my compromise. I share with my blog.

Today I watched the opening pre-title scene of a recent NCIS episode.

(Yes, maybe that makes me old, if you believe the online chatter than NCIS is this generations’ Murder She Wrote, watched only by seniors.)

I’ve been a fan of the ensemble characters since season 1, but this blog he nothing to do with the show. It’s more about the genre of the DB reveal.

Far too many shows on TV these days open the show by revealing a dead body. Almost every show in the late prime time television spot opens almost every episode by revealing a dead body, for which the characters then have an hour or two at most to solve.

These opening sequences have a wide variety, and most frequently the scene has nothing to do with the rest of the show. It stands alone, as one or two random people, living their everyday unrelated lives, just happen apon, dig up, witness or otherwise discover a dead body somewhere. As actors, they get the privilege of a speaking role credit, despite having less than a minute on screen time. It’s a great first role for anyone.

My mind likes to think of the off camera work behind the scenes and I’ve often wondered about these opening reveal scenes. Most shows mix it up and have at least one or two episodes a season without an opening dead body reveal, but for the most part it is a murder show staple. I use the term “murder show”,  while others probably consider softer wording, like crime drama, cop show or detective show procedural. The commonality is that they’re all solving murders in one way or another.  Prime time has a lot of death. Everyone is killing everyone.

The massive demand for random and unrelated body reveal scenes must be difficult to keep writing, week after week, show after show. I ponder; do directors and writers buy and sell those scene scripts separate from the show? It seems like a perfect opportunity to separate the entire scene from the rest of the production. An amazing opportunity to give guest directors a chance, or pay back favours by casting your brothers daughter. Whenever I see a fresh new face in a DB reveal opener, I wonder if it was a gift role. I wonder if some writer wrote that reveal and sold it. I wonder a lot of things.

For writers, I have to believe they would welcome creative ideas for this part. It’s totally less important than the show plot, and could easily be farmed out or even freelance purchased.

I think it might even be a neat marketing ploy during sweeps week to have a more famous name director do the opening reveal scenes, perhaps for a whole evening or week of reveals, or maybe theme them in stunt casting and shared scenarios.

Can you imagine Tom Hanks being directed by Woody Allen discovering a teenager who was pushed in front of a train on next week’s episode of NCIS.

I probably should have come up with more youthful examples to try to regain my stance that I am not a senior citizen. Oh well.

In the preview I watched tonight that inspired all this, I saw a distracted man texting while driving, drive over his dead body before the credit roll. A meaningful public service announcement built into the DB reveal. That’s great. They’re finding a way to make them less useless. A DB reveal that teaches us about life.

I wonder if the driver of the car was somebody’s nephew.

Jeff Goebel
NOT A SENIOR CITIZEN